FanFest

Giants' Mauricio Dubon shares hilarious story of meeting Hunter Pence

Giants' Mauricio Dubon shares hilarious story of meeting Hunter Pence

Mauricio Dubon is living the dream of every young Giants fan right now. 

Dubon moved to Sacramento when he was 15 years old to live with a host family -- leaving his family in Honduras -- in order chase his dreams of playing baseball. He attended his first Giants game as a teenager in 2010, sitting in the center field bleachers as Tim Lincecum pitched the Giants closer to a division title. As a young shortstop he idolized Brandon Crawford, and now is his teammate and will be Crawford's double-play partner on many occasions this season. 

When Dubon first made his Giants debut in late August after being acquired in a trade with the Milwaukee Brewers, he certainly could feel his fandom come alive. The same can be said for when the team brought Hunter Pence back this offseason.

"The first time I saw Hunter at FanFest, I asked for a picture, actually," Dubon said on the latest episode of The Giants Insider Podcast. "I asked him for a picture, yeah. 2014, with the whole speech and everything -- as a fan, you kind of get excited. As a player, you get even more excited." 

Dubon said he had to get away from the Giants' veteran players last year when guys like Tim Lincecum, Angel Pagan and many others came back for Bruce Bochy's final game as San Francisco's manager. The young infielder simply couldn't help but get giddy seeing his childhood heroes. Dubon even used Pagan's salute celebration in high school. 

Now with Pence in the fold and Pablo Sandoval returning to San Francisco, Dubon doesn't see why the Giants couldn't shock the world again once the season returns amid baseball's suspension due to the coronavirus pandemic.

[RELATED: How Dubon is staying ready after missing first Opening Day]

"I keep telling people that when were we favorites -- I say "we" as a fan -- when were we favorites to win a World Series in '10, '12 and '14? Never," Dubon said. "So why's it gonna change right now?

"We have the same veterans. Same hunger, probably even more. We got guys that are willing to do anything to win a game. I think we have a pretty good chance of [winning] the whole thing." 

Dubon is expected to be manager Gabe Kapler's do-it-all utility man up in the middle at second base, shortstop and center field this season to keep his athleticism in the lineup. And while his fandom always will live within him, he could be a major key to the Giants brining their next World Series trophy back to San Francisco.

Oakland A's FanFest: Crowd of over 30,000 comes out to Jack London Square

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Jessica Kleinschmidt

Oakland A's FanFest: Crowd of over 30,000 comes out to Jack London Square

OAKLAND -- It was crowded Saturday in Jack London Square.

"That's what you get when you win 97 games," I heard someone say in passing as I approached the 2019 A's FanFest.

It began with a parade as Buku One DJ'ed -- a small and simple one. Matt Olson and Sean Manaea high-fived onlookers who were on both sides of the low, iron fences under the green-and-gold balloon arches. It also was at that instant where A.J. Puk's 6-foot-7 frame seemed to not give him justice.

Past A's faces Dallas Braden and Rollie Fingers joined the celebration that was led by COVAH's drumline.

A few "boos" were heard throughout the crowd as it was announced where we were standing would be the future home of the Oakland A's. It appears some A's still are in denial about the team's inevitable move, but that wasn't what it was about that day -- it wasn't even brought up by the many fans I spoke to.

Laura Gonzalves of Oakley said she's excited to see some of the younger players and what they have to bring this season.

"I'm excited to see Ramón Laureano," Gonzalvez told NBC Sports California. "He was amazing last season, and I just want to see how much he has developed during the offseason, and I'm also excited to see Paul Blackburn because he's from Brentwood, which is the area we are from."

She also said she's looking forward to having Sean Manaea back on the mound. And her sister, Jennifer Emmons, made sure to yell out that she wanted to support the two who earned Gold Gloves last year.

"The hot corners!"

Emmons wanted everyone on Water Street to know she was excited to see the two Matt's -- Olson and Chapman -- taking care of both sides of the field and at the plate.

"Grandma," who Jennifer and Laura called their mother, has been a fan of the A's since 1972. Despite saying Olson is "old enough to be my grandson," she said the A's are "just the best team in the world."

Speaking of Olson ... I walked over to the Q&A session, being led by NBC Sports California's own Glen Kuiper, where he, Marcus Semien, coach Darren Bush and Chad Pinder were being grilled by fans. Well, they were hardly interrogated, but it didn't take long for Olson to show off his personality by taking a few digs at Pinder:

Semien smiled big at that one. And why wouldn't the Bay Area native?

Once you got used to seeing the sea of green and gold at a different location outside of the Coliseum or Oracle Arena, where most of these events are held, you began to actually picture a ballpark there. People were smiling and drinking adult beverages -- and I am pretty sure I saw one of the biggest pile of nachos known to man at Plank, where fans were playing bocce ball. 

Side note: Make sure you give yourself a 30-minute rest period after eating nachos before engaging in any physical activities, such as bocce ball. 

Jennifer Trumpp of Livermore has been to her fair share of FanFests and, of course, A's games. She mentioned the feel of last year's team was a lot like 2012, when Oakland won the AL West title and nobody saw it coming.

"I think we're trending in the right direction," Trumpp said. "They were such a great surprise -- and I got to see the no-hitter against the Red Sox."

Humblebrag.

I noticed a little boy dancing next to Bukue One, and a crowd started to form around them. The bubbles from the clown making balloon animals for kids added to the spectacle, and it all seemed like a party -- a carnival where you could take photos with mascots and spin the wheel in hopes of getting a new hat you promise you'll wear despite never wearing a hat in your life.

Around the A's booster tent and the Stockton Ports set-up, I found Will MacNeil. He's a season ticket holder who always seems to find himself on the big screen cheering loudly in the always-entertaining right field bleachers.

"I'm looking forward to seeing Jurickson Profar, for sure," MacNeil said. "He's got power, and he's going to want to prove something, and he's going to want to get a big contract when he's a free agent in a few years."

[RELATED: Everything you need to know about Profar]

When asked to comment on the FanFest itself, he complimented the environment, but more importantly, had some nice things to say about the fans.

"Best fans in the world right here, and there's nothing better than seeing the green and gold every day."

And what is his favorite part of rooting for Oakland?

"That's a terrible question," MacNeil said. "I mean, there's nothing better than being an A's fan."